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A Rising Star of Italian Violin Making Is a 32-Year-Old From South Korea

A Rising Star of Italian Violin Making Is a 32-Year-Old From South Korea


Art of Craft is a collection about craftspeople whose work rises to the extent of artwork.


When Ayoung An was 8, her mother and father purchased her a violin. She slept with the instrument on the pillow subsequent to her each evening.

Two years later, a store promoting musical devices opened in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, her hometown, and An turned a fixture there, pelting the proprietor with questions. “I believe I bothered him quite a bit,” An, now 32, mentioned.

As an adolescent, she determined she would turn out to be a violin maker. Eventually, a journey with twists and turns took her to Cremona in northern Italy — a famed hub for violin makers, together with masters like Antonio Stradivari, because the sixteenth century. There, An, a rising star within the violin-making world with worldwide awards underneath her belt, runs her personal workshop.

Set on a quiet cobblestone avenue, An’s studio is bathed in pure gentle and full of books and piles of wooden chunks that should air dry for 5 to 10 years earlier than changing into devices or danger warping. She shares the two-room studio along with her husband, Wangsoo Han, who’s additionally a violin maker.

On a latest Monday, An was hunched over a thick 20-inch piece of wooden held in place by two metallic clamps. Pressing her physique down for leverage, she scraped the wooden with a gouge, eradicating layers, her arms regular and agency. She was forming a curving neck referred to as a “scroll,” one of many later steps of constructing a violin or cello. On this present day, the violin maker was immersed on a fee for a cello, which shares an identical crafting course of.

Violins like An’s, made within the custom of Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri, require about two months of labor and promote for about 16,000 to 17,000 euros, or $17,500 to $18,500. “I could make a violin in three weeks, however I don’t need to,” An mentioned. “This object may be very treasured to the particular person buying it.”

An was 17 when she hatched her plan to be taught the craft: She would transfer in with an American household in a Chicago suburb in order that she may attend an area highschool, grasp English and ultimately examine on the Chicago School of Violin Making. There have been no such faculties in Korea on the time. Her mother and father, distraught about her shifting so far-off to pursue an unsure profession path, tried to cease her.

“I didn’t eat for days,” An mentioned. Finally, they gave in. “When I mentioned goodbye to my mother and father on the airport, they have been crying,” she mentioned. “I wasn’t. I used to be too excited.”

Two years after shifting to Illinois, she found that among the finest recognized faculties for violin makers, the International School of Violin Making, was really in Cremona. So in 2011, at age 20, she moved to a brand new nation once more.

Cremona was house to a few of historical past’s most well-known luthiers, makers of stringed devices: Stradivari; Andrea Amati, thought-about “the daddy of the violin”; and the Guarneri household. For the 160 to 200 violin makers in Cremona right now, the sound high quality of the masters stays the final word objective. “The conventional methodology is just not about experimenting,” An mentioned.

Around the studio, small pots of pigment, for varnishing, sat on cabinets and tables alongside jars of powders — floor glass and minerals — for sharpening. On a wall have been dozens of knives, chisels and saws. Also current: dentist’s instruments to scratch the instrument for a extra vintage look.

An is the youngest member of a consortium in Cremona devoted to upholding violin-making traditions. She is so immersed within the Cremonese methodology of violin making that, on the suggestion of a mentor, she created an artist’s title, Anna Arietti, to raised slot in with Italian tradition.

An essential second is when luthiers place their label contained in the instrument, referred to as a “baptism.” To make her label, An stamps her ink signature onto a small piece of paper — a browned web page from a secondhand e book, giving the impression of age. Then, utilizing a conventional selfmade combination of melted bovine pores and skin and rabbit pores and skin as a long-lasting adhesive, she glues the label inside one half of the instrument. She additionally burns her signature into the instrument with a tiny heated model.

Afterward, the 2 halves are sealed collectively, finishing the principle physique of the instrument. Her Italian artist’s title stays inside, intact so long as the violin is.

“That’s why I needed to be a violin maker,” An mentioned. “At least one one who performs my violin will keep in mind me 100 or 200 years later.”

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